Rotating strike action by postal workers in selected cities has turned into a full lockout at all urban centres by Canada Post.
The corporation’s decision halts urban mail delivery and could push Parliament to consider back-to-work legislation as early as next week.
“A lockout is the best way to bring a timely resolution to this impasse and force the union to seriously consider the proposals that address the declining mail volumes and the $3.2-billion pension deficit,” Canada Post said in a press release Tuesday.
No new talks are scheduled so far, but the union has demanded a meeting with Canada Post’s CEO.
Shane Lorenz, president of Canadian Union of Postal Workers local 786 Nanaimo (which also covers postal workers in Parksville), said postal workers opted for rotating strikes to minimize the impact on the public and avoid a total mail delivery shutdown.
“We’re pretty disappointed that Canada Post is just shutting the doors altogether and maybe a better way would have been at least to have warned the public, maybe given them a couple of days’ notice to sort of clear the mail that’s stuck in the system,” Lorenz said.
That mail will not be delivered until employees return to work.
Postal workers in Qualicum Beach and Nanoose Bay are under the Canadian Postmasters and Assistants Association (CPAA — a different union) and are not on strike. They can, however, only do so much, according to Parksville-based CUPW members.
They told The News Thursday that while the post offices in Qualicum Beach and Nanoose Bay are still open, they only have the mail that was delivered pre-lockout.
Mailboxes in Parksville, too, are open they said. Local postal workers are not preventing people from checking those boxes at the local outlet.
“As far as a settlement goes, I see us quite far apart and I think locking the doors is kind of disrespectful, so I don’t think that’s going to entice us to go back to the table more eagerly,” Lorenz said.
Federal Labour Minister Lisa Raitt told CTV News her staff will reassess the impact to the economy and public interest before contemplating legislating the 48,000 urban postal workers back to work.
By midday Wednesday, the Conservative government announced it intended to introduce back-to-work legislation
Michelle Terry, a letter carrier manning pickets at the Canada Post office on Terminal Avenue in Nanaimo Wednesday, said there are workers who are seriously ill who need the extended benefits that have been cut off.
The issue is top-of-mind among Parksville employees as well, who expressed concern over Canada Post’s direction in recent years — reducing staff and forcing those left behind to carry more mail, leading to more days off due to injury.
Canada Post said the corporation has lost more than $100 million in revenue since the rotating strikes began June 3.
Canada Post had already cut service to three days a week in response to shrinking demand as uncertainty from the strike led customers to use competing services or switch to online alternatives.
The union had asked for wage hikes of 3.3 per cent in the first year and 2.75 per cent in each of the next three years.
Canada Post offered a four-year contract lifting pay 1.9 per cent in each of the first three years and two per cent in the fourth.
Issues at the table include changing technology, job procedures and concessions on wages and benefits for new hires.
Canada Post says it must address labour costs as a result of a 17-per cent drop in letter-mail business since 2006 due to a rise in online bill payments and other electronic communications.
— Nanaimo News Bulletin/with files from The News.